Boyd J. Bolling, interviewed by James Talyor Adams in Flat Gap, Wise County on March 11, 1942.
"Guess you've heard about old Booker Mullins. He as said to be the greatest bear hunter and fist and skull fighter that was ever in this part of the country. I've heard my father talk about him. Said that one time him and his brother were out bear hunting and they run upon a big bear.
Booker told his brother to hold the dogs and let him fight the bear, which seemed willing for the match. They had around and around and at least the bear got Booker in hits hug and was about to squeeze him to death. He holldered to his brother, "Turn the dogs loose!" "Not do such a thing!" his brother said, "Im not going' to show foul play in a fight. And he didn't, but Booker finally killed the bear. Booker called him(self) the champion fighter , and I guess he was.
One time he (Booker) was traveling through Kentucky and passed where they were raising a house. He boasted around some, and after he went on one of the fellows said, "Jis wait til he comed back by and I'll beat he devil out of him. Well that evenin' Booker come back by and this fellow picked a fuss with him. They went into it. And Booker whipped him and three others who run in and took hit up for him.
The story of how Bear Fork got name
It appeared that my great uncle, Booker Mullins, of the upper Pound region,
enjoyed bearding the bears in the early 1800's.
When Paw told me the tales about Booker and the bears, he called him Uncle
Booker and said that he didn't know where or why he called him uncle, but maybe
he came from his mother's side of the family.
Anyway, this the way Paw told me the scary tale about Booker and the
In about 1800 or a little later when the Pound River country was settle,
Uncle Booker Mullins was a man with muscles like ropes all up his arms and down
his shoulders and around his chest, and when he was 22 and stood six feet six
inches tall and weighed about 250 pounds he could "ride" any man that scuffled
Anyhow when he couldn't find anyone who could stand in with him, he started
out to find a 1-year-old bear to fight and he said he knew he would kill it with
his bare knuckles and feet.
Well, Big Booker began begging my Grandpaw Jeremiah (Jerry) to go out and
hunt for the bear and Grandpaw kept telling him that he was crazy to tackle a
bear that way and such a bear like that would kill him. But Big Booker would
shake his head and say, "Nuh! Nuh! that bear's not going to tech me. I'll knock
the breath out out'n him with my first kick in the ribs with my hob nailed boot
Big Booker kept after Grandpaw to go with him back in the Cumberlands to
look for a bear for him to fight and he kept on at him until finally Grandpaw
said, "Well if you just have to, I'll take you, in the morning, to the far
I saw signs of how the bears was a raking in the leaves for chestnuts as I
was coming back from Kingdom Come about a week ago."
"But I warn ye if that bear tears you up, don't blame me, I've told ye,"
Again Big Booker only shook his head and danced around and around punching
and jabbing his big fists towards Grandpaw.
Now Big Booker was jumping with joy as he headed for home on the head of
Cumberland. The next morning bright and early Booker was stomping on Grandpaw's porch raring to get going.
Grandpaw said, "I'll take my two bear dogs along and we'll just lead them
and we'll have them in case we have to track some bear down."
"Oh no! no! Jerry. " Booker said, "You be shore and hold'em dogs back cause
I want to track the bear myself and if I find one to fight, hold'em dogs and you
mustn't turn'em loose no matter what happens."
"Well, go after him ye fool," Grandpaw said, as they wormed their way
through the laurel and ivy and out onto chestnut flats on the crest of the ridge
on far creek.
"This is it," Grandpaw said "this is where I saw where the bears had been
eating the chestnuts -- now we must slip along so the old bear won't hear us in
these dry rattling leaves. Oh! be quiet Booker, with ye big noisy boots you'll
roust any bear up a mile yards away."
Booker hunkered down and began to crawl along and ever once in a while he'd
look up at grandpaw and say, "Do you see 'em yet?" Do ye see anything?
About that time, Grandpaw whispered, "Be quiet! Be quiet! I hear something
a raking in the leaves behind that big dead chesnut log over yonder."
Booker eaased upright and his eyes, followed Granpaw's finger pointing
toward the log and about that time, just a little bit of a bear's head heaved up
and down above the log.
"That's one, that's one," whispered Big Booker as he pulled his big long
wet middle finger from his mouth and held it straight up and said, "The wind is
a coming from him to us; so now he cain't wind us and smell us'n the dogs and
I'm goin to slip right onto him and if'n he ain't too big I'll jump right on his
back, and don't you turn them dogs loose."
"Git goin, ye big fool and if'n he eats you up I'm not turning nary one
loose," Grandpa said, as Big Booker went a crawling toward the big log and the
Well, he crawled right up to the log and just as he touched the log a big
bear's head bobbed up just so his eyes could see over the log. But he
never did see Booker and he went on a raking back the leaves and eatin'
chestnuts like nuthin wuz a happinin.
Big Booker looked back at Grandpaw an seen him motion with his hand to go
on after the bear. That's all it took -- Booker was on the log like a cat
after a mouse, and he landed on the big bear's back with his big hobnailed boot
Booker kept bobbing up an down and all the time he wuz a kickin and a
kinckin the 'le bear in the back and the ribs. All at once though the bear
gave a might growl and he came up with Booker in a bear hug and he screamed at
Grandpa, "Turn them dogs loose."
For God's sake, Jerry, turn 'em dogs loose; this bear is tearing my mortal
leaders out", screamed Booker again.
Still, Jerry held onto his dogs and yelled, "I show no foul play.
Booker, you told me never to turn the dogs loose, so go get him like you
About that time they both went down behind the log and such a rattling and
thumping like you never heard before.
Grandpa was uneasy 'cause he wuz afraid that the old bear was a chawing on
Booker, so he run up to the log and looked over and there laid Booker one way
and the old bear the other way, both a panting; they wuz tired to death. Grandpaw's dogs wuz already loose by now and they pounced over the log and began nipping at the 'ole bear's tail!
But just one good nip by the dogs and he old bear was awake and went shambling down trhough the leaves snappng aback at the dogs as they chased him.
By now Booker was up and a leaning back on his elbows and said, "you know
what, Jerry, that bear wuz a two-year-old; I saw his teeth."
Well... I never knew Booker was so tall. So I learned he was six feet six. And again we have one of those recreational fighters. Remember my grandpa Fleming was called "Fightin' Fred" Fleming. I had always assumed it was fighting in the Civil War until I learned they used to punch each other silly til one of them passed out, died or gave up.
I was wondering about those hobnails. I looked them up and those are the pictures at the beginning of this story.
Guess I will be on the lookout for more stories by Connie Bolling.